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Let history judge our divisiveness

Contrary to current popular belief the world is not in an unavoidable, out-of-control spiral towards global annihilation. The terms “unprecedented” and “never before” are being thrown around as if they are a given. People begin their statements or editorials with these adjectives expecting everyone to be in agreement. They then begin their assessments based on these untruths.

Although it might seem like this at times one needs only to casually browse through history to find that this presumption is totally wrong. I believe that one of the reasons for this is our fondness for the oversimplification of rather complex issues. We are living in a time of 24-hour news cycles and sound bites that form the basis of our collective understanding of what’s happening in our country and around the world.

One of the statements used to begin many arguments these days is, “…this country has never been so divided”. Really, more divided than we were as a country during the time building up to and during The Civil War? More divided than we were as citizens during the Civil Rights protests and riots and killings during the 1960’s? Or even more divided than the country as a whole was about The Vietnam War? Just assessing these three periods in our rather recent history will show the objective person that this statement, if not completely false in and of itself, is a total oversimplification.

Another is the proliferation of “false news”. The first thing we need to understand about this is that this is an action that has simply been renamed. It would not seem unique to our times if it was called “propaganda”. Propaganda has been used from the beginning of political times. It has been used by pretty much all political parties and groups to sway public opinion or to deflect attacks on them with false, or at least slanted, information to redirect the political views of the public. Oppressive regimes use this tactic very well. What many Americans don’t want to acknowledge is that the USA and many political parties and other groups in America have in the past, and continue to, use propaganda as a very effective tool.

“A President of the USA has never knowingly engaged in such lying to the people of the country as Trump does.” We just have to look back to Clinton lying about inappropriate sexual behavior and both Nixon and Johnson making intentional false statements (since proven) about the Vietnam War during their tenure as president. There have been numerous times this has happened in our history that we now know of due to facts that came to light after the fact.

“There’s never been a President of the United States who has made such insensitive and politically incorrect statements about individuals or world leaders or groups as Donald Trump”.
This, once again, can be proven at least debatable based on revelations via memoirs, quotes and tape recordings. The single thing that makes this president’s faux pas worse than his predecessors’ is his penchant for doing so on Twitter without any filtering or delay.

There’s also the popular belief that the world has never been so close to a possible nuclear conflict and that the US mainland has never been under such a precarious position regarding a possible foe having nuclear warheads that could possibly reach our cities. Most people, without discounting the possible dangers posed to us by North Korea, would agree that the October Missile Crisis of the Kennedy administration was the closest we’ve come to nuclear war since the dawn of the nuclear age.

Without transposing my belief of what the current political climate of our nation or our world is on anyone else I am simply attempting to point out that those who claim that we’ve (as a whole) have never been so divided or in peril need only to look back to history to realize that this is simply not true. There have always been conflicts and divisions in our country and in our world.

Finally, I think another contributing factor is the daily sensationalizing of every story by our media, as well as our president – “the biggest tax break” or the “largest inauguration crowd”. We need to step back and realize that the world didn’t begin when we were born. History covers a long, long period of time. Not everything is the biggest or the greatest or the first! But, this is simply a reflection of how many of us inhabiting the planet right now believe that the world revolves around us…

Until next month, stay safe…and healthy!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the monthly commentary “The Way I See It” are Tom Kenney’s and not necessarily those of The Providence Police & Firefighters Retirement Association.

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